i Editor's Letter: Beating the odds has become an Afghan habit


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The Independent Online


One of the tasks of a junior news editor is “copy tasting” – assessing incoming stories from the agency wires, websites, social media feeds, and prioritising the best for publication. Occasionally this allows deskbound hacks to express their frustration by adopting eccentric pet topics of questionable interest to the readership. An ex-colleague of mine, for instance, took to running regular reports of fatal cow tramplings around the country. The job exposes news desk staffers to a stodgy diet of human misery and depravity. Graveyard humour can take root. The most parochial news editors develop disproportionate fears of crime and travel, fed by the horrors piped to their desktop.

All of this helps to explain the swivel-eyed joy with which news executives leap on cheerful items. The one that pleased me yesterday was Afghanistan – one of the world’s poorest countries, beset by decades of war, and having shown consistent ineptitude in the arena of international sport – somehow qualifying for the cricket World Cup for the first time, sparking delirious national celebrations which are likely to continue for days. Afghan exiles learned the game in refugee camps in Pakistan. Twelve years ago they didn’t have a national team; now they will play England and Australia.

Cheerful news, then, from a country whose media coverage is monopolised by catastrophe – and a reminder to us hacks to look beyond the grim wire-snaps from around the globe announcing another atrocity.

The team’s captain, Mohammad Nabi, said after the win: “I can cherish this moment. We’ll try to work hard and do better.” As The New York Times points out: “Beating the odds has become an Afghan habit.”


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